Its latest edition in 2010 was 32 volumes and cost $1,395. It's been in print for 244 years and many a student has researched an essay or project in its leather-bound pages.
It is the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and it has just been announced that there will be no more physical copies of this venerable reference produced.
It will live on online, on a partially free, partially paid website. Basic services are free, full access to the huge database requires a subscription. And Britannica is blogging now as well.
So it's not like information is not available. Don't forget there's the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia as well to give Britannica a run for its money. And only 8,500 copies of the latest edition of Britannica were even printed - they don't say how many were sold.
But who in this day and age is prepared to spend over $1,200 on a set of reference books when it's easier to look it up online? And the online information will be the latest available.
Still, it's a definite end of an era. Whose home didn't have a bookcase of those red leather books, embossed with gold printing?
Mine did. They were first in place of honour in the hallway, and over the years moved down to the basement. I think our edition was printed in 1948.
We would pull out the required volume and scan its pages - heavy on a lot of text with a few very small illustrations. But anything you wanted to know was in those volumes.
Even in the 1970s, when I was in high school, the information in that old set of encyclopedias was still pretty good. You could do a project on a country, say, and everything was accurate except possibly the population.
My mother would say - geography doesn't change, climate doesn't change. Oh, Mom. Those were innocent days, weren't they?
And what about the travelling encyclopedia salesman - the foil for so many sitcom jokes over the years? Remember the episode of Friends when an encyclopedia salesman gave Joey the hard sell? Joey had almost no money so the salesman sold him the volume V and Joey spent the rest of the episode trying to engage his friends in conversations about subjects beginning with the letter V. It was funny. And all due to encyclopedias.
What about all the farmer's daughter jokes? Those were almost always set up by a visit from a travelling salesman - usually vacuum cleaner, or encyclopedia.
Then there are crossword puzzles. I love them. A good friend of mine introduced me to the New York Times crosswords many years ago and I am addicted to them. The small Sunday puzzle is a killer. It's full of really obscure clues and my friend, who also owns encyclopedias, says it's not cheating if you seek out information about clues in an encyclopedia. She does however, have differing feelings about using Google. No sport in it, as the British used to say. Too easy.
The big old volumes made you work a bit, they made you read other information as you sought the one answer you needed. You learned as you learned. It's all going to be different now as technology changes the world more every day. Those of us who loved the old encyclopedias will hang on to them, but we will likely look up a lot of information online as well.
The world is evolving and we must evolve with it. It even says so on Britannica's website: "Change: It's Okay. Really."